A Bump in the Road

I seem to have hit a snag in working through ADF’s Dedicant Path. And since this week is supposed to be a High Holy Day in terms of the workbook, so I think I’m gonna hit pause and see if I can work through a few things, especially since I’ll be traveling the week of the Solstice this year. I’ve had holdups and reservations from day 1, forever unsure that this ritual structure truly works for me. Some elements, I’ve found I can pretty easily get past like the honoring of the Earth Mother, which feels far too Neo-Pagan for my liking. But as an animist, I can also make this more literal or metaphysical and less archetypal. However, the juxtaposition of her with the Sky Father is one I really can’t seem to get past and frankly I’m not sure I even want to. The Earth is, in effect, our mother, however I’ve always seen her as somewhat of a single parent, if that makes sense. This likely has to do with how I view the sun and its associations with Áine and Grianne. Clearly the sun is important, but I don’t view it as a deity in its own right. And as far as that goes, I don’t view the Earth as a Goddess™, but that language still seems fitting and she certainly deserves a place of honor as our home and the only planet we know of that can support life as we know it.

There’s also the issue of some of the ritual language. At times, ADF refers to “Land, Sky, and Sea,” which is very familiar and comfortable to me as a Gaelic Polytheist, but then other times it seems randomly interchanged with the Fire, Well, and Tree symbolism. And maybe I’m just not used to it, but I find it a little grating as of now. There’s a lot of other language that I’ll have to rework for my own personal rituals, though I did stumble across a Gaelic Polytheist ADF ritual that may be a better starting point. However, I’ve never been one to engage in language that goes against my own theology, so the idea of a group ritual being so far out of my own beliefs is somethin that gives me pause. As The ADF Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year states,

“ADF celebratesThe eight Neo-Pagan High Holy Days. They are celebrated in ADF because we are a Neo-Pagan organization. Not every Indo-European culture celebrated these festivals at the times that ADF and the wider Neo-Pagan community celebrates them, but as we are modern Neo-Pagans (not ancient pagans or reconstructionists), part of our identity relies on the fact that we keep these days holy.”

Though I don’t really use the Recon label anymore, I do still operate in that sphere. I know it’s an argument of semantics, but I also very much do not identify as a “Neo-Pagan” and never have, largely cause I feel like it gives a very wrong impression of my practice. But I also worry how that might sound, especially to folks who don’t really know much about me.

At the same time, this whole thing still seems worthy of pursuit, at least to see it through the DP program. It has, however, made me very curious about OBOD and AODA. For now, I may try and apply the ADF structure to this year’s Queer Ancestors ritual and see how it goes. Since I think I’ll be doin that in 2 parts this year, I may try one part with ADF and one more like last year and see which resonates better.

And a last note: thanks for bearin with me this week. This is far from eloquent writing and is certainly a lot of stream of consciousness, so just know I appreciate y’all.

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The First Oath

I’ve never been one for oaths when it comes to deities. Not really. I think it relates to the fact that, as a child, I made a sort of oath to the Christian God when I was “saved” and we can all see how that turned out, haha. And then when I first began exploring Paganism, I tried to make an oath to Na Mórrígna and frankly had no idea what I was doin. Thankfully, the ritual was a complete trainwreck and it never really happened; I think they knew I was well-intentioned, but completely unprepared or maybe some other cosmic somethin did. I realize now how much of a colossal mistake that could have been and therefore don’t approach the topic lightly. And as my practice has evolved, I’ve realized I don’t feel the need to be oathed. I think my place within the Gaelic Polytheist community is as a teacher and scholar, possibly even a leader or priest one day, all realizations I came to organically as my practice was continually pulled in so many directions. As such, I honor a wide variety of Gaelic deities, but not in any kind of exclusive way. And part of that is due to my studies, though that’s also sometimes a crutch I use as an excuse at times, too.

So when the idea of the “First Oath” popped up in ADF, I balked. I almost instantly decided I’d just skip that part. Nope. Not for me. However, the more I thought about it and took the time to read, I realized that this oath can be what I need it to be now. It doesn’t have to be anything outrageous or complicated, which is exactly what I need. My life is in a state of flux at the moment and I don’t wanna make an oath I can’t keep, yet I also don’t wanna keep puttin this process off. So, I decided to make the oath to myself.

I, as openly as possible, acknowledge myself a Polytheist
A seeker of ancestral paths and connections, and a bridge to the present. 
I seek to continue my years long path of honoring na Dé ocus Andé,
This oath serving as a marker of that intention.

I vow to seek virtue in my life, to honor the humanity of all,
To fight injustice wherever it arises, and to incorporate that reality into my religion.
I vow to do my best to practice and study, while also recognizing my limitations,
That this path isn’t leaving and that a pause is sometimes needed.

I promise these things to myself, to honor na Dé ocus Andé, the ancestors, humanity, and the world. 

In some ways, I worry this might feel too secular, but it’s what I can reasonably vow right now. As a graduate student, my free time waxes and wanes, but unlike the moon, I can and will hit the pause button when need be. And considering my academic work is also focused on modern Paganisms, it’s reasonable to assert that the separation between my own practice and study with that of my professional commitments is anything but solid.

A New Endeavor

It’s been almost 17 years since I last stepped foot in a church as someone who truly considered themselves a Christian. But it wasn’t long before I found myself longing for a sense of community again. And I find myself still searching for that. I’ve found good friends along the way (shoutout to my CI folks, haha), but I still yearn for a more organized community. Part of me can’t even believe I’m sayin that. The last time I tried to join a religious organization, I wound up enmeshed in a months long situation where I, and others, were stalked online, were lied to, and were manipulated when we dared to speak out about transphobia. And to make it worse, the initial encounter that sparked the whole thing likely could have been worked through cause it very much seemed to stem from cultural differences rather than a truly bigoted place, yet organizational leadership showed their true colors and displayed some truly vile behavior. And yet here I am, on the precipice of tryin again.

So, back in August, almost a year ago now, I joined ADF, but I”m just now in a place where I can dedicate some time to starting the Dedicant Path. I doubt that this will be the end of a journey for me, but simply a new avenue of exploration. I’m still not convinved the organization is for me, though I’ve certainly ascertained that the local Grove is not and chances are, when I move again in a year, there won’t be a Grove anywhere near me. But I still think it’s worth exploring. I have no idea where this path will lead or if it’s simply a bypass that will rejoin the larger path I’ve been on for more than half my life now. It’s actually weird to think about it in those terms, but that doesn’t change the reality. Tbh, even if I love everything about ADF, as an academic and perpetually curious person, I know that I’ll likely investigate other organizations like OBOD, AODA, etc. It took years to shake the Christian conception that you can only belong to one religious structure at a time, but I’m there now. I guess time will tell what all I find, but I’m excited and ready to see what comes next.

Featured Image: “Great Blue Heron on Reelfoot Lake” by Byron Jorjorian via The Nature Conservancy